WEYMOUTH (2) 2 ALTRINCHAM (1) 2
played on Saturday, 26 April 2008, at 5.15pm.
After today's game, for the third successive season, Altrincham find themselves in the relegation places at the end of the 46-game season, awaiting the 47th and most important "fixture" of the season, the Conference AGM in June, which ratifies which teams are in which league next season. But the Robins gave a fine account of themselves against a very physical Weymouth side who racked up four yellow cards and a red inside an hour of play to confirm their position as the side with most bookings in the BSP.
Alty started fairly well but fell behind in the 6th minute when great skill from Malcolm saw him get behind Shotton and Tinson on the right of the Alty defence, his cut back from the left of the box being deflected off an Alty player towards goal and then turned into his own net by Scott - but it was going in anyway.
As Weymouth continued to concede foul after foul, Alty twice went close from Young headers from freekicks before Colin Little made it 1-1, calmly converting Coburn's long kicked clearance (28 mins). Three minutes later, Scott commtted a foul to which Critchell responded with a punch. Scott raised his arms too and both were red-carded to bring to a premature end to Scott's first league start of 2008.
But, in the second of the six added first-half minutes, referee Mullarkey's decision not to give a freekick against the already booked Beavon for pushing over Shotton, led to the corner from which Malcolm fired a 25-yarder through a crowded goalmouth past Coburn.
Alty dominated the second half and Weymouth got the first of several warnings for timewasting, just 11 minutes into the half. Alty's relentless pressure paid off as Senior converted Shotton's feed. But the Robins just couldn't get the third goal that would have kept them up, given Halifax's defeat today. There were emotional scenes at the end as the exhausted Alty players threw their shirts to the sizeable contingent of travelling fans who had given them outstanding support throughout.
REFEREE: Mr M Mullarkey (Devon)
Alty adopted a 4-1-4-1 formation with Chris Lane sitting in front of the defence. Chris Senior and Colin Little were on the flanks, supporting Joe O'Neill up front. Loanee Greg Tansey had been ruled out through injury. After more than 30 successive starts, Warren Peyton gave way to Joe O'Neill. Former Alty loan player Matt Bailey had been recalled from Weymouth by Crewe so did not face the Robins today.
Alty started the game in the fourth relegation position and reliant on Halifax losing to Stevenage to survive in the division. A win was therefore vital for Alty on a ground where they had won last season. The kick off had been pushed back to 5.15pm by Setanta TV schedules and the company was beaming the match live to the nation.
WEYMOUTH: (Terracotta and blue shirts, white shorts and blue socks): 26. Stephen HENDERSON, 2. Kyle CRITCHELL, 23. Justin ROBERTS, 12. Scott DOE, 3. Trevor CHALLIS, 6. James COUTTS, 13. Simon WEATHERSTONE, 30. Michael MALCOLM, 11. Anton ROBINSON, 10. Stuart BEAVON, 19. Stuart DOUGLAS. Subs: 1. Jon STEWART, 7.Nick CRITTENDEN, 22. Paolo VERNAZZA, 4. Marcus BROWNING, 20. Jamie FRAMPTON
ALTRINCHAM: (Red and white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks) 1. Stuart COBURN; 16. Ryan SHOTTON, 5. Darren TINSON (capt), 10. Greg YOUNG, 3. Gary SCOTT; 15. Chris LANE; 19. Chris SENIOR, 7. Robbie LAWTON, 21. Paul TURNBULL, 9. Colin LITTLE; 12. Joe O'NEILL. Subs: 2. Steve ASPINALL, 11. Warren PEYTON, 13. Richard ACTON, 18. Pat McFADDEN, 23. Ryan TOULSON.
To choruses of "We're here, we're from Altrincham" from the large body of travelling support, Weymouth kicked off towards the visitors' end on a sunny evening in front of the Setanta TV cameras. Early on, Gary Scott, starting his first league match of 2008, slid in rashly and was fortunate to escape with a lecture (2 mins). But with the supporters' singing still filling the air, Alty started the game fairly comfortably only for the Terras to score from their first meaningful attack when a superb dribble up the left by Malcolm saw him get past Shotton and Tinson into the box and cut the ball back into the box where it struck an Alty player and was redirected towards the goal-line. Covering defender Gary Scott was only able to help the goalbound ball into the net (6 mins).
Altrincham responded well, winning a corner from a neat move, but Senior telegraphed his corner-kick intention to feed the deep-lying Little and Weymouth read the signs and closed down the recipient (9 mins). From a Terras' corner, soon afterwards, Senior had only Challis to beat to get to halfway where he and his counter-attacking team-mates were faced by only a couple of covering defenders ahead of them. But Challis brought down Senior and was fortunate to see no more than a yellow card (12 mins). To add insult to injury, as Challis jogged back to his position his captain gave the offender an approving gesture for his cynical foul. After this, Senior got in a decent 20-yarder which went narrowly wide (13 mins).
At the other end, a Coutts' cross from the right narrowly evaded Beavon. His team-mate Douglas also caused some Alty problems with his movement but how a player like him, who has a foot-long pony-tail, is allowed to wear it loose, to swish across his marker's sight line when challenging in the air is a mystery that football's rule makers need to explain. When O'Neill was the next to be cut down by Weatherstone, who also twice appeared to tread on him deliberately, the lenient referee settled for a quiet word with the offender. As Setanta's Paul Parker said, there were three offences in one and the referee chose not to book the offender for any of them. From Lane's resulting freekick, Young rose superbly to force a fine tip over the bar from Henderson but Senior overhit the resulting corner (18 mins). Next, the combative Beavon tripped Lawton, and the referee finally booked him (21 mins). It looked as if it wouldn't be Alty's day as Young again superbly headed a Lane freekick firmly at goal only for the ball to smack against the crossbar. When the just-booked Beavon transgressed again he suffered no more than a freekick against him (22 mins). Alty went close again after this when Senior nipped in smartly to try to intercept Doe's under-hit back-pass to the keeper but the Alty man could not keep the ball in play (23 mins). Weatherstone was next in the queue for a lecture from Mr Mullarkey and from Lane's resulting freekick, Senior fired narrowly wide (26 mins). But Alty's luck turned when Coburn's long punt from a Tinson back-pass set Little free. The marksman calmly took his time to let the ball drop into his control before planting it past Henderson to level the scores and record his 21st league goal of an injury-affected season (28 mins).
Weatherstone was now penalised for another foul (29 mins) before Coburn comfortably fielded an 18-yard header from Beavon. But a minute later, after a tackle by Scott on the left touchline, Critchell punched Alty's left-back, who reacted after being knocked to the ground and after a brief melee, both defenders were sent-off (31 mins). So, Alty adapted to a 4-3-2 formation as Lane moved to left-back, with Senior and Little the front two. Weymouth instead left three at the back initially.
Soon, a fine Young tackle saw off some Weymouth danger. Weatherstone was Weymouth's third man to be booked for his fourth bad foul of the game (36 mins). Another neat move which ended in Young shooting wide was followed by an audacious Coburn dribble past an opponent. Next an ambitious 25-yarder from Turnbull went well wide (40 mins). When Coutts clattered Lane, the Weymouth man came off worse and, after a lengthy spell of treatment, a stretcher was produced before Coutts hobbled off under his own steam, with an apparent rib injury, and was replaced by Crittenden. This lengthy delay plus the two sendings-off meant that six minutes of added time were announced. Following a rare slip from Tinson, Shotton was bowled over by the already booked Beavon but the referee preferred to let the resulting corner stand rather than make a third red-card decision. It was the moment that decided Alty's fate. Coburn was unable to gather the first corner and Young had to concede a second corner which was cleared out to Malcolm, whose fierce low shot flew through the crowded box into the bottom of the net to make it 2-1 (45+2 mins). As half time approached a surprisingly heavy police presence ejected a couple of Alty fans for reacting to opposition taunts. Alty won a late corner but they nevertheless trailed undeservedly at half-time.
|Half-Time: WEYMOUTH 2 ALTRINCHAM 1|
As 6.30pm approached, Alty kicked off towards their own fans, having pushed right-back Ryan Shotton up front alongside Colin Little. Shotton soon made his presence felt in the air. But Weymouth won a corner before Shotton got himself free, left of goal, but overhit his cross. Alty now brought on Peyton for O'Neill to shore up the left side against Weymouth (54 mins). After a lunge at Shotton by Roberts, he became Weymouth's fourth player to see yellow in addition to the earlier red (56 mins). Alty were almost caught on the hop after Lane's freekick and were glad to see a poor cross/shot from Crittenden at the end of the counter-attack.
Mr Mullarkey had to warn Henderson about time-wasting as early as the 57th minute, the referee ostentatiously stopping his watch in the process. Young, who had a fine game, now made a stretching interception but needed treatment for an injury sustained in the process but not before play had continued and, from a Shotton feed, a Little shot had struck Roberts who went down injured and conceded a corner. There were claims that the defender had handled the ball.
Alty continued to set the pace as Peyton's header from Senior's cross from the right was fumbled out for a corner by the keeper (62 mins). The game continued in open fashion but with Little's header from a Lane freekick (67 mins) and Peyton's 20 yard shot, both of which went to the keeper, being the nearest to an Alty goal. With Halifax losing by this stage at The Shay, a win this evening would have saved Alty's season. They were now playing 3-3-3, as Senior joined Little and Shotton up front. Next, another Peyton shot yielded a corner. Finally, Weymouth got in a shot at the other end but Malcolm's effort curled wide (73 mins).
Senior got in a shot following a foul on Shotton before Alty went even closer as Young almost poked the ball past Henderson (75 mins). Despite the pressure, a goal eluded Alty as Little failed to connect fully from close range, the ball bouncing off Henderson for a corner, followed by another soon after when Shotton's lay-off led to Peyton's deflected shot. From Peyton's left-side corner Shotton relayed the ball to Senior who made it 2-2 from close range (79 mins).
But having achieved parity, Alty found their opponents raising their game against the part-timers' tired legs. Weymouth, indeed, brought on a sub, Browning for Beavon (82 mins) before Toulson replaced Turnbull. Toulson, an on-loan Halifax Town man, presumably had mixed emotions as, had Alty scored now, it would have relegated the Shaymen (85 mins). With Young now pushed forward Weymouth tried to exploit Alty's weakened defence and they won two late corners (88 mins). Four minutes of added time were announced during which Toulson was booked for a late challenge (90+1 mins). Vernazza then replaced Douglas (90+2 mins).
Alty won a late corner but Peyton's kick went to the keeper and, with it went Alty's three-year third spell in the Conference. But, fixture 47, the Conference AGM, has yet to be played and in the last two seasons Altrincham have been reinstated in the National division at that stage. It may not happen a third time but at least Altrincham had gone down fighting in their last game and have been a model of financial integrity to many of their "bigger" rivals.
At the final whistle the travelling supporters continued to chant their support and were rewarded as the players threw their shirts to them. Where players and supporters will meet next in the league is unclear but at least everyone at Moss Lane knows there is a next season which is more than can be said for some clubs.
|Full-Time: WEYMOUTH 2 ALTRINCHAM 2|